Purrfect for Palm Springs? Cat cafe concept could soon be seen in city
In a town that has seemingly gone to the dogs, one small business owner hopes to find a few customers who share a fondness for felines.
Claire Rogers is working to open “Frisky Business,” a cat cafe, by the time the Palm Springs International Film Festival kicks off in early January. The concept is simple: Cats roam freely through one room while food and beverages are served in another. For a fee, customers are welcome to bring their purchases into the room with the cats and mingle — giving their new furry friends some attention and (hopefully) getting some back.
The beauty of the business is that it does more than help form bonds between humans and felines over a cup of coffee and baked goods. Once up and running, it will help solve an issue in the city that is often overlooked — finding homes for homeless cats.
Unlike many businesses in the city that welcome animals and their pet parents, the only cats allowed at the cafe will be residents. Rogers plans to have a mix of rescues and residents — four who live at the cafe full-time, adopted from the older cat population at local shelters, and eight rotating in and out from those shelters as they are adopted.
How big is the need? Keith Zabel, vice president of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter (PSAS) Board of Directors, said there are more than 5,000 “community cats” — those without homes — in the city and up to 35,000 throughout the Coachella Valley.
“I think a large percentage of our residents don’t understand there is a massive community cat population in the desert,” Zabel said, explaining that many of them have gone through the shelter’s Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. From 2016 to 2019, the program, made possible through a grant from Best Friends Animal Society, helped both PSAS and Coachella Valley Animal Campus spay and neuter more than 11,500 cats.
The concept of cat cafes dates back to the late 1990s, when what many consider the first opened in Taiwan. The idea spread to Japan, Europe, and North America, where Cat Town opened in Oakland in 2014. Until Frisky Business opens in Palm Springs, the nearest will be located in Los Angeles.
Rogers, a native of England, relocated to Palm Springs from Vancouver, British Columbia, after living in London for 21 years. Her first experience with the cat cafe concept was while traveling through South Carolina. She spent an afternoon speaking with the cafe’s owner and was stunned at what she had learned.
“I was talking with her and about how to sustain an income,” Rogers explained. “But what impressed me the most was that she had 2,000 cats adopted out.”
Seeing similar success is a lofty goal, but Rogers believes it’s possible, especially if the business takes off in Palm Springs.
“My intention is to get this one off the ground, and then I’ll open up a second one in the Valley,” Rogers said. In preparation, she has solicited the services of her partner, Sonny Von Cleveland, to serve as general manager. Von Cleveland also recently attended barista school.
“The citizens of Palm Springs have been so welcoming and so friendly,” Rogers said. “I love the sense of community, and I want to be a part of the community, and I want to help the community.
“It’s not just about me and making an income. It’s about getting cats adopted out. There are also a lot of seniors who love cats but can’t have them anymore. I want to create a place for people to experience cats.”
For both Rogers and Von Cleveland, the cafe will not just be an opportunity to give back to the community but a chance to continue their journeys along a path of emotional healing. Von Cleveland frequently speaks about surviving childhood trauma and prison. Rogers became a mental health awareness advocate and host of the Boot Camp for the Mind & Soul podcast after 20 years of “soul-destroying” corporate life.
“I left corporate life feeling like I hadn’t done any good helping the world,” Rogers said. “I’m now in the position to create a business that helps felines and people.”
Exactly where that business will open is a bit of a mystery right now. Rogers is still scouting locations and will need a variance from the city before being able to open. Live animals are not allowed to live in downtown businesses, where she hopes to be located. City staff and elected and appointed officials have been receptive to date, including Palm Springs Planning Commission members, who she spoke to earlier this month about the variance.
“There’s a lot of red tape in England,” she said. “I was expecting to have it here. With the zoning issue, I thought, “Oh god, this is going to shut down my entire operation before I get started. I wrote to [Mayor Christy Holstege] and thought I’d never hear back. I got her out of office message, but then she messaged me back within 15 minutes.”
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RAIL REQUEST: Riverside County Supervisors Karen Spiegel and Manuel Perez will ask their colleagues to support a request to the federal government today to provide funding to complete environmental studies associated with a 144-mile commuter rail project linking the Coachella Valley to San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties. The route includes a stop in Palm Springs. The initial environmental impact report on the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Project was completed earlier this year, and additional assessments are required to move the project forward, according to the supervisors. Up to $60 million may be needed to complete impact studies on six proposed rail stations, as well as a third main track line and grade crossings along the eastern section of the project zone, encompassing roughly 76 miles, officials said. For the complete story, turn here.
WOMAN FOUND DEAD: Palm Springs Police are investigating the “suspicious death” of a 38-year-old woman in the city Monday following a report of shots fired. The Palm Springs Police Department received the shots-fired call around midnight Monday in the area of South Cherokee Way near the Oasis Resort, according to Sgt. Mike Casavan, who added that officers arrived to find the woman already dead. Neither the identity of the woman nor the circumstances surrounding her death were immediately available, and the Riverside County Coroner has not filed a report. KESQ-TV reported that the woman was found dead in a vehicle and that she was a Desert Hot Springs resident.
MIZELL EVENTS: The Mizell Center continues its celebration of active older adults with free Zumba, Yoga Flow, and Tribal Belly Dancing classes. The first class kicks off at 9 AM. The Mizell Center is located at 480 S. Sunrise Way. To attend the free classes, sign up at the ticket window. Darlene Backlund, the race walker speaking Monday, will also be on hand for a “Walk in the Park with Mizell” at 7 AM for anyone who would like to walk with her around Sunrise Park.
BOARD OF EDUCATION: The Palm Springs Unified School District Board of Education holds its regular meeting at 6 PM, following a closed session that begins at 2:45 PM. More information about both meetings, including an agenda, is available here. Meetings are held in the District Administration Center Board Room, 150 District Center Dr.
ELECTRICITY AT OSCAR’S: Electricity, a hit LGBT comedy/drama, continues its record-breaking over 3-year run every Tuesday night at 7 PM at Oscar’s, 125 E. Tahquitz Way. Called “The hottest play in Palm Springs” by The Advocate, Electricity was written by Terry Ray (Gaydar, My Sister Is So Gay, From Here on OUT) and stars Ray & Indie film star Mel England (Best Day Ever). Each week features a different celebrity guest moderating a post show Q&A. The play runs Tuesday nights until at least the end of the year, and pre-show dinner is available. For tickets and more information head to www.ElectricityThePlay.com
ONGOING & UPCOMING
UPCOMING MUSICAL: Girlfriend, a production of Palm Springs-based Dezart Performs, will be staged at 7:30 PM from Wednesday through Saturday, at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater, 71560 San Jacinto Dr., in Rancho Mirage. General admission is $45 in advance; tables for 6 PM. dinner seating is also available. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-0179, or visit dezartperforms.org. Find the complete story here.
LEATHER PRIDE: Palm Springs Leather Pride runs Thursday through Sunday at multiple locations in the city and surrounding area. Events include the Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2021 Contest, the Formal Leather Dinner, clothing-optional pool parties at Canyon Club, a hosted Cigar Social at Barracks, as well as an evening Cruise Party and Vendor Mart at Tool Shed. Tickets for all of the events are available here.
SHREK PERFORMANCES: Palm Canyon Theatre’s production of Shrek The Musical continues this week and next, running through November 7. Showtimes are 7 PM on Thursdays, 8 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 PM on Sundays. Children under 12 get in free with proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance. For tickets or other information, call the box office at 760-323-5123 or order online by visiting PalmCanyonTheatre.org. The theater is located at 538 N. Palm Canyon Dr., at the corner of Alejo Road. Box office hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM until 4 PM.
AIDS WALK: The community’s largest gathering of HIV advocates comes together on Saturday, October 30, to walk toward ending the HIV and AIDS epidemics in the Coachella Valley. The 2021 Desert AIDS Walk, presented by Desert Care Network, will be an in-person event beginning at Ruth Hardy Park and following a route through downtown Palm Springs. This family and pet-friendly event includes a Health and Wellness Festival presented by Walgreens. Complete details, including registration information, is available here.
CHILI AND CARS: Palm Springs Air Museum’s 13th Annual Chili Cook-Off and Car Show are planned for Saturday, October 30, beginning at 10 AM. During the event, Sponsored by the Desert Classic Car Association, you can view more than 200 exotic cars and hot rods while tasting chili made by volunteers. Tastings are $1, or you can buy six for $5. For more information or to enter a vehicle, call 760-774-9936 or email [email protected]. The museum is located at 745 N. Gene Autry Trail.
HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL: The Family Health & Support Network hosts a Halloween event from 4 PM until 7 PM Saturday, October 30, titled The Branch Halloween Festival. The event is open to children and families and will feature carnival games, raffles, prizes, scary escape rooms, candy, and more. The Branch Institute is located to the rear of First Baptist Church, 588 Rosa Parks Rd.
BOO BALL: The desert’s version of Met Gala returns in person this year when the third annual BOO BALL takes place on Saturday, October 30, in the Korean-Vietnam hangar at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail. The event begins at 6 PM and benefits Boo2Bullying, a locally-based nonprofit organization founded by Dimitri Halkidis. For tickets and sponsorship opportunities, you can email [email protected] or call 310-435-8528. You may also purchase tickets at this link. For the complete story, turn here.
HALLOWEEN HULLABALOO: The Palm Springs Cultural Center is planning a full day of Halloween films and festivities on Sunday, October 31. Starting at 1 PM and going until 11 PM, there will be attractions for all ages, as well as exciting programming for kids during the day and adults at night. Aside from more than a dozen movies, attendees will be treated to magic shows, trunk or treating, jazz performances, adult lounges, a burlesque show, and more. Information on all events, as well as ticket information for individual events or all-day passes, can be found here.
BE A HERO BASH: The Be a Hero for Kids Halloween Bash, which benefits the Boys & Girls Club of Palm Springs, is slated for Sunday, October 31, from 4:30 PM until 7 PM. The event features costumes, cocktails, and culinary delights at the Palm Springs Hilton, 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Tickets for the event are available here.
HALLOWEEN ON ARENAS: Halloween weekend comes to an action-packed conclusion Sunday evening, October 31, as Arenas Road turns up the volume during its annual Palm Springs Halloween event starting at 4 PM. The event features bands, DJs, guest appearances, and lots of celebrating. Information about VIP tickets is available here.
PALM SPRINGS PRIDE: The city’s largest celebration kicks off on November 1 and culminates with a parade on November 7. All week long, expect music, parties, and more throughout Palm Springs as the community gathers to celebrate and honor the strength, equality, and self-determination of the LGBTQ community. The parade will be held on Sunday, November 7, starting at 10 AM. For a complete list of all Pride events, including the musical lineup — headlined by Third Eye Blind — turn here.
PRIDE RUN: The Palm Springs Pride 5K Run & Walk takes place Saturday, November 6 at 8 AM. The event is both in-person and virtual for 2021. Registration is available here. The race is proudly hosted by Palm Springs Front Runners & Walkers, a local chapter of International Frontrunners, an informal network of LGBTQ running groups around the world. Proceeds from the Palm Springs Pride 5K Run & Walk benefit The LGBTQ Community Center of The Desert (“The Center”) and The Transgender Health and Wellness Center.
SKATER GIRLZ JAM: Lesbo Expo Presents hosts a woman-identified LGBTQIA+ skateboarding event on Saturday, November 6 at Palm Springs Skate Park, 405 S. Pavilion Way. The event includes a skateboarding clinic at 2:30 PM for anyone who wishes to participate. Gates will open for ticket holders and day-of ticket sales at 4:30 PM. The main event gets underway at 5 PM. prizes will be awarded for highest Ollie, longest boardslide in transition, longest manual, dizzy lick flips, youngest ollie, and more. Tickets are available here.
WELLNESS SUMMIT: Brothers of the Desert is conducting its third annual wellness summit focusing on Black gay men and their allies in the Coachella Valley and beyond in-person (and virtually) on Saturday, November 13, at Margaritaville Resort in Palm Springs, 1600 North Indian Canyon Drive. The one-day event runs from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM. It features innovative workshops, interactive discussions, and inspiring keynote presentations on a diverse range of topics, such as spirituality, sexuality and identity, emotional health, aging considerations, examining race, physical health, social advocacy and entrepreneurship. Registration for the event is available here.
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